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By Terry Kovel, Published May 04 2012

Kovels Antiques: Decorative fish bowls date back to ancient Rome

Did you have a bowl filled with pet fish when you were young? The idea dates back to the Roman Empire, when carp were kept in marble tanks. Once panes of glass were made, a pane could be used on one side of the tank so people could more easily watch the activities of the fish.

The Chinese were making large porcelain tubs for goldfish by the 1400s. Copies of these tubs are still being made and sold, although they are usually used for plants, not fish. By the 19th century, there were aquariums and fish bowls that look like those found today. Raising fish became an important hobby, and the first public aquarium opened in 1853.

By 1900 there were aquariums and fish bowls made in fanciful shapes, and some were even part of a planter or lamp. It is said that keeping fish is one of America’s most popular hobbies. So when a fishbowl topped by three ceramic polar bears was auctioned at Humler & Nolan in Cincinnati, it’s not surprising that it sold for $2,540. The fish bowl is cleverly designed. A porcelain “basket” holds an ice cave (the bowl). It’s topped by the bears, and openings show the bowl and active fish. It’s about 24 inches high and 15 inches in diameter, big enough to hold a few fish and plants. The bowl is lit from below. The maker is unknown, but it’s signed “Makonicka.” The bears and ice are designed in a style popular after 1890.


Q: A few years ago, I bought a round 60-inch dining-room table with a pedestal base at a Los Angeles antique shop. The dealer told me the table was made in Germany, but there’s no label or mark on it. The interesting thing about it is that there’s a thick base under the tabletop that hides eight leaves. You can lift the top of the table and rotate the leaves out so they form a ring around the table, making the tabletop 80 inches in diameter. Have you ever seen a table like this?

A: Your table is called a “perimeter table,” and the leaves are referred to as “perimeter leaves.” The style has been around for decades, and some cabinetmakers are building them today. A U.S. patent for this sort of table was granted in 1911. That was during an era when all sorts of different table extension designs were being invented.

Q: I’m trying to find information about my 5-foot Colonel Sanders metal weathervane. I was among the crew who remodeled a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Miami in 1980. The weathervane was going to be trashed, and I was the only worker who wanted it. So I took it home and stored it in my garage for 32 years. The weathervane is a full figure of Colonel Sanders holding his cane up in the air. The weathervane must have stood on top of the restaurant for about 20 years. What is it worth? How should I sell it?

A: Harland Sanders (1890-1980) opened his first restaurant in Corbin, Ky., in 1930. The first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise opened in 1952, and there were 600 by 1964. We have seen Colonel Sanders weathervanes for sale at antique shows for about $500. But a few have sold at auction for $1,000 or more. Price depends not only on where and how you sell it, but also on condition. If your weathervane is not rusty and the colors aren’t faded, contact an auction that specializes in advertising. You will have to pay a commission.

Q: We’re moving and have a collection of old pictures in frames that my great-grandfather bought for $10 at a barn sale in the 1950s. One is a print of cattle and ducks that’s signed by James M. Hart. Under his signature are the words “copyrighted 1899 by James M. Hart.” There are some brown stains in the corner. Is it worth anything?

A: James McDougal Hart was born in Scotland in 1828. His family immigrated to Albany, N.Y., in 1830. Hart started out as a sign painter’s apprentice, then studied art in Germany. In 1854 he opened a studio in Albany. Later, he opened studios in Brooklyn and Keene Valley, N.Y. Hart died in 1901. Several of his works are in museums today. The brown stains on your print are called “foxing” and can be caused by deterioration due to age or by exposure to heat, cold or humidity. If your pictures were stored in a barn, conditions were not ideal. Some oil paintings by James M. Hart sell for several thousand dollars. But his prints, in perfect condition, sell for just a few hundred dollars. Your print would be difficult to sell since it is in poor condition.


Tip

If you buy an old teddy bear at a garage sale, bring it home and put it in a plastic bag with some mothballs for a few weeks. Don’t let the mothballs touch the bear. The fur and stuffing of old bears attract many types of hungry insects.


For more information about antiques and collectibles and free price information, visit Kovel’s website, www.kovels.com

Kovel answers as many questions as possible through the column. By sending a letter with a question, you give full permission for use in the column or any Kovel forum. We cannot guarantee the return of any photograph, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The volume of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovel,

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